28. Words Count
In my day job, I tell writers, “Too much is better than not enough. I can always work with too much. But not enough is just not enough.”
That’s when a writer has turned in a draft that’s lacking in some way and I’ve given her feedback and she says, “If I answer all your questions, that’s going to push it over the word limit.” I issue my advice so she won’t get too hung up on length when it’s more important to add missing details, feeling, color, or whatever. At that point, I know what I want, I know what she’s turned in, and I know how to make it stronger. Then I can trim.
But if you get an assignment of 1,000 words and turn in 2,400, saying, “It’s too long, but you’re a whiz at cutting!,” you haven’t done your job. Going a couple hundred words over is usually not a big deal for a 2,400-word piece, but 1,000 words over is. (Then again, a couple hundred over for a 300-word piece can be a big deal—it’s relative.)
If your first draft is wildly off the mark in length, cut it down close to the assigned word count before turning it in. (See tip number 9, “Editing Yourself,” for an exercise that may help.) If the editor wants more, he’ll tell you.